Pembroke selectmen consider regional power plan
Summer outage spurs discussion, but obstacles would be significant
By Patrick Ronan
The Patriot Ledger
Posted Nov 15, 2011
PEMBROKE — Pembroke officials say it might be time for local communities to take power into their own hands.
On Monday night, Pembroke’s selectmen supported a proposal, raised by board member Arthur Boyle Jr., to see if local towns would be interested in forming a regional electric company. Boyle said the prolonged power failures caused by Tropical Storm Irene this summer highlighted the problems with relying on privately owned utility providers.
Braintree, Hingham, Hull and Middleboro, , all of which provide and maintain their own electricity, regained power much more quickly than communities served by National Grid or NStar following the storm. Some residents in Pembroke went without electricity for more than a week.
“My intent is to find out if there is an appetite for (a municipal company) in the region, potentially in Hanover, Duxbury, Marshfield and some of the other communities that abut Pembroke,” Boyle said.
He said there are several major hurdles to clear before a regional partnership can be considered. For starters, he said politicians would need to rewrite state law to pave the way for locally controlled power companies. The last time a local community launched a similar operation was in 1929, he said.
Selectmen said another problem with creating a regional company would be determining how to use the existing power lines owned by National Grid or NStar. Selectman Gregory Hanley said participating towns would need to either rent the lines on a monthly basis or negotiate a long-term buyout.
Hanley said communities would have to determine if they could finance a megawatt-generating facility, and then decide whether that energy would come from a power plant or alternative sources such as wind turbines or solar panels. Despite some glaring questions, he said a regional partnership should be, at the very least, a topic of discussion in local towns.
“If you bring together five or six towns in our area, you can improve services and reduce rates,” Hanley said.